The design and construction of public spaces are regulated by a variety of other legislation and standards including the Ontario Human Rights Code, Planning Act, Ontario Building Code Act, the Ontario Building Code and municipal bylaws. It is important for design professionals to understand the hierarchy and inter-relationships between these. Figure 1.4 illustrates how this works.
Ontario Human Rights Code and other Ontario Legislation
The Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code) has primacy over most other legislation in Ontario. When there is a difference or conflict between the Code and another Ontario law, the Code has priority unless the other law specifically states otherwise. As such, the Planning Act, Ontario Building Code Act and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act must comply with the intent of the Code unless otherwise noted within the legislation. Organizations are required to meet Ontario Human Rights Code requirements unless this would cause undue hardship to an organization — for further information refer to the Ontario Human Rights Code.
Accessibility Standard for the Design of Public Spaces
The Accessibility Standard for the Design of Public Spaces is part of the AODA’s Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation, which regulates the design of newly constructed or redeveloped spaces used by the public. Elements covered by the Standard include exterior spaces such as sidewalks and other pedestrian walkways, parking lots, outdoor public use eating areas, beach access routes, recreational trails and playgrounds.
Requirements are also included for some design elements associated with providing public access to services, such as service counters, fixed queuing guides and waiting areas.
What is the Relationship between the Accessibility Standard for the Design of Public Spaces and …
… the Ontario Building Code (OBC)?
Jurisdiction of the OBC is different from the Standard. For example, the OBC regulates the construction of buildings, and includes requirements for barrier-free paths of travel from accessible entrances to parking lots.
The Standard addresses accessibility within newly constructed or redeveloped spaces used by the public, mostly within the exterior environment. It also addresses the accessibility of some building elements not covered by the OBC, related to the provision of services to the public.
In some cases of land development, it is possible that the accessibility of some exterior pedestrian routes will be regulated by the OBC and others will be addressed by the Standard. The accessibility of pedestrian routes within the exterior public realm is covered by the Standard. Refer to Section 2.1 Exterior Paths of Travel for further information.
Within a building, the accessibility of most elements is regulated by the OBC. However, the accessibility of some elements related to the provision of services to the public, such as service counters, fixed queuing guides and waiting areas, falls under the Standard. Refer to Section 2.7 Obtaining Services in Public Spaces for further information.
… the Planning Act?
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (Section 29) defines the role of municipal Accessibility Advisory Committees, which includes reviewing the site plans and drawings described in Section 41 of the Planning Act that the committee selects. The site plans and drawings can incorporate accessibility requirements based on the Standard, municipal bylaws and, if they exist, municipal accessibility guidelines.
… Municipal Bylaws and Municipal Accessibility Standards/Guidelines?
Municipal bylaws define accessibility requirements within site development proposals and some municipalities have developed their own municipal accessibility standards/guidelines.
It is important to note that the Standard sets minimum mandatory accessibility requirements and has primacy over municipal bylaws or design standards. If a municipality’s by-laws require fewer accessible parking spaces than the Standard, for example, then at least the minimum number of accessible parking spaces required by the Standard must be provided. However, municipalities have the flexibility to establish and follow guidelines and by-laws for accessibility-related site development features that exceed the requirements of the Accessibility Standard for the Design of Public Spaces.
… the Highway Traffic Act?
The Standard incorporates accessible parking signage requirements from the Highway Traffic Act, Regulation 581, Section 11.
… Other Laws and Voluntary Accessibility Standards?
Section 38 of the AODA states that, where accessibility requirements from various laws or regulations apply
to a project, the law or regulation that provides the higher level of accessibility with respect to goods, services, facilities, employment, accommodation, buildings, structures or premises is the law that must be followed.
Canadian Standards Association CAN/CSA B651 - Accessible design of the built environment:
CAN/CSA B651 is a voluntary standard and an excellent source for better-practice information on designing for accessibility.
National Building Code (NBC):
The NBC is a model building code. In Ontario, the OBC is generally used. One exception is for construction projects under federal jurisdiction.
The Accessibility Standard for the Design of Public Spaces allows for exceptions1 where meeting accessibility requirements would adversely impact specific characteristics of a development that are addressed by other Acts or regulations such as:
- the Heritage Act
- Canada National Parks Act
- Historic Sites and Monuments Act (Canada)
- UNESCO's World Heritage List under the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and National Heritage
- Endangered Species Act.
Refer to Section 1.8 of this Guide for further information.
1 Note: These exceptions only apply to
- Recreational Trails
- Beach Access Routes
- Exterior Paths of Travel